40 French Expressions “En Tout”

By Mark Nichol

English has borrowed heavily from French, including a number of expressions beginning with en (meaning “as” or “in”). Some of these, such as “en masse,” are ubiquitous; others, like “en ami,” are obscure. Many more listed (and defined) here, italicized in the sample sentences, are not even listed in English dictionaries and are therefore considered still wholly foreign (and should be italicized in your prose as well).

Whatever their status, however, given sufficient context, these expressions might be gainfully employed to provide a wry or sardonic touch to a written passage, or to characterize a pompous character:

1. En ami (“as a friend”): “I confide in you en ami.”

2. En arriere (“behind”): “Discretion is the better part of valor, I reminded myself as, letting my more valorous friends go before me, I marched en arriere.”

3. En attendant (“meanwhile”): “I entertained myself en attendant by thumbing through a magazine while she troweled on her makeup.”

4. En avant (“forward”): “En avant, comrades. Fortune awaits us through that door.”

5. En badinant (“in jest”): “Relax, my friend — I meant what I said en badinant.”

6. En bagatelle (“in contempt”): “He glared at me en bagatelle, as if I were vermin.”

7. En banc (“with complete judicial authority”): “I sentence you en banc, as judge, jury, and executioner, to death.”

8. En bloc (“in a mass”): “We can depend on them to vote en bloc in support of the proposal.”

9. En clair (“in clear language, as opposed to in code”): “The spy’s telegram was carelessly written en clair.”

10. En deshabille (“undressed, or revealed”): “She opened the door to find me standing there en deshabille, and immediately retreated.”

11. En echelon (“in steps, or overlapping”): “The flock of geese flew overhead en echelon.”

12. En effet (“in fact, indeed”): “You see that I am, en effet, in control of the situation.”

13. En famille (“with family, at home, informally”): “Let us now return to that happy household, where we find the denizens lounging en famille.”

14. En foule (“in a crowd”): “He had the remarkable ability to blend in en foule.”

15. En garcon (“as or like a bachelor”): “I have separated from my wife and am now living en garcon.”

16. En grande (“full size”): The bouncer approached and, with a scowl, reared up en grande.”

17. En grande tenue (“in formal attire”): “She arrived, as usual, en grande tenue, and in consternation that everyone else was dressed causally.”

18. En grande toilette (“in full dress”): “The opening-night crowd was attired en grande toilette.”

19. En guard (“on guard”): “She assumed a defensive position, as if en guard in a fencing match.”

20. En haute (“above”): “From my perspective — en haute, as it were — I’d say you are both wrong.”

21. En masse (“all together”): “The members of the basketball team arrived en masse at the party.”

22. En pantoufles (“in slippers, at ease, informally”): “He had just settled down for a relaxing evening en pantoufles when the
doorbell rang.”

23. En passant (“in passing”): “She nonchalantly mentioned the rumor en passant.”

24. En plein air (“in the open air”): “We celebrated by venturing en plein air.”

25. En plein jour (“in broad day”): “They boldly rendezvoused en plein jour.”

26. En poste (“in a diplomatic post”): “Though he was a friend, I decided to send the memorandum en poste.”

27. En prise (“exposed to capture”): “He found himself en prise, beset on all sides.”

28. En queue: (“after”): “I bided my time and followed en queue.”

29. En rapport (“in agreement or harmony”): “I’m delighted that we are all en rapport on the subject.”

30. En regle (“in order, in due form”): “I believe you will find the documents en regle.”

31. En retard (“late”): “Typically, they arrived en retard for dinner.”

32. En retraite (“in retreat or retirement”): “After uttering the verbal blunder, she ducked her head and exited the parlor en retraite.”

33. En revanche (“in return, in compensation”): “En revanche, I invite you to attend my upcoming soiree.”

34. En rigueur (“in force”): “We have arrived en rigueur to support you.”

35. En route (“on the way”): “En route to the post office, she passed by the derelict house.”

36. En secondes noces (“in a second marriage”): “The community was so conservative that she found her matrimonial state, en secondes noces, to be the topic of gossip.”

37. En suite (“connected, or in a set, as a bedroom with its own bathroom”): “She was pleased to see that the room was en suite.” (Also spelled ensuite.)

38. En tasse (“in a cup”): “I’ll take some en tasse.”

39. En tout (“in all”): “We’d like to use your banquet room, please — we are a score or more en tout.”

40. En verite (“in truth”): “En verite, I am the one
responsible.”

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8 Responses to “40 French Expressions “En Tout””

  • Claude Nougat

    Very amusing and you certainly did a very thorough research! One small point (French is my mother tongue): “en guard” is spelled en guarde” with an e at the end…Also, “en grande” is very, very rare. Actually I don’t think I’ve ever come across it in French used in the way it’s used in the example you give. I mean it probably works in English, but it wouldn’t work in French…

    But no matter, this is a very interesting and useful compendium!

  • thebluebird11

    @ Claude and Mark: OK, French is not my mother tongue, but I minored in French in college…so please let me say, it is actually “en garde” (no “u”). It comes from “garder” (to keep), although in this case, in the phrase it means “caution,” not “guard.”

    Great list. I think what it needs is a pronunciation guide.

    @ Mark: You’ve made great lists of words for praise and condemnation; if you’re looking for fodder, how about words and phrases for winning and losing (look at all the sports-page headlines)?

  • thebluebird11

    @Mark: Oh, I forgot, meant to question your use of “en arriere”…which really means “backwards.” “Derriere,” as many people will recognize, means, literally and figure-atively, “behind.” Is this a colloquial use of “arriere”?

  • Bernard

    Many words in these expressions have an accent. I strongly recommend using them to avoid a mispronunciation.
    En deshabille : En deshabillé
    En echelon: En échelon
    En regle: En règle
    En verite: En vérité

    As for the expression “en guard”, in French the actual expression is “en garde”, no “u”.

    “En grande”, is used frequently by French Canadians in the expression “partir en grande” which means “all gearded up”, a synonym for “all pumped up”, “in a rush”.

    In French, the expression”En revanche” is not used with a revenge connotation. It has a much smoother meaning such as “on the other hand”, “otherwise”, “however”.

  • Bernard

    I forgot “en arriere” which also uses an accent grave :”en arrière”.
    The given example, “I marched en arriere.” is correct and in this case really means “behind”. It is also used to express the meaning “to the rear”, “to be in the rear”. For example, “No seats left in the front row, I sat en arrière”.

  • Bernard

    One more comment. “En deshabillé” usually refers to clothes a women would wear before going to bed such as a nightgown. In other words, it’s related to women’s “lingerie”. Used without “en”, deshabillé means undressed, but not necessarily naked.

  • Giorgi

    Thank you for your making an important and useful job; me personally, it helps a lot. Could you please, instruct me about whether I should italicize the word “vis-a-vis,” having the French roots to my knowledge, in formal English writing or not? Thank you for a help in advance.

  • Mark Nichol

    Giorgi:

    There’s any easy test to determine whether to italicize a word of foreign derivation: Is it in an English dictionary? If so, do not italicize.

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